TWU saw a 21-point lead slip away.
Had the UBC Okanagan Heat came all the way back, it would have been a meltdown of epic proportions by the Trinity Western University Spartans men's basketball team.
After blowing a 21-point fourth quarter lead, the Spartans needed two free throws and a blocked shot from point guard Tristan Smith in the final two seconds to secure a two point, 71-69, victory over the visiting Heat Saturday night at the Langley Events Centre.
The victory moves the Spartans to 11-9 and puts them in a third spot in the Pacific Division, while the loss drops the Heat to 3-18 with one weekend remaining in Canada West conference play.
"We have to regain our level of discipline in the half court and the fourth quarter. Our defence is good for three quarters and then it is breaking down," TWU head coach Scott Allen said, on the team's end-of-game issues. "It feels like we are taking steps to get where we want, but we are also taking steps backward. Good teams are going to take advantage if we don't get more disciplined."
"The key for us is for every one playing together a little better. When you run a motion offence and the ball stops you are in trouble and some guys are trying to do too much as individuals," added Allen.
Smith, a Los Angeles native, drove the offensive lane and was fouled with 1.8 seconds remaining in the game and the teams tied at 69-69.
The fifth year guard hit both shots to give TWU a 71-69 lead.
Following a timeout, UBC-O inbounded the ball at centre court.
The Heat found guard Yassine Ghomari outside the three point line on the far side of the court. The fourth year guard took one dribble and looked to score, but his shot was blocked by TWU's Smith as the buzzer sounded to end the game.
The Spartans led the entire game 20-15 at the end of the first quarter and 35-29 at the half. Then, in a similar fashion to Friday night's game, TWU outscored UBC-O 23-to-15 in the third quarter to take a solid 58-44 lead going into the final frame.
TWU expanded the margin and had their biggest lead of the night after Tyler Linttell hit a three point shot with 9:15 remaining to give the Spartans the 65-44 lead.
Then things got interesting.
For the next nine minutes the Heat dominated the play as they outscored the Spartans 25-4 to tie the game at 69-69. The lone highlight for the Spartans in this stretch was a thunderous lob dunk by Denny McDonald with 1:46 remaining to give TWU a 69-60 lead.
Smith finished the night with 13 points, six steals, six assists and five rebounds while going seven-for-seven from the foul line, while Denny McDonald with 16 points and nine rebounds, Tonner Jackson with 16 points and Tyler Linttell with 10 points and six rebounds also contributed to the Spartans' win.
The Spartans will now take on the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades to determine third and fourth place in the Pacific Division. Both teams are currently tied for third spot with a record of 11-9. A split of the two game home-and-home series would give the Spartans third spot as TWU would hold the second tiebreaker of record in divisional play.
"The games against UFV are always high energy with good fan support. It's important that our guys stay composed and the winner will be determined by who is going to run their offence the best," said Allen, regarding next week's match up and its implications. "Win or lose, either way we are traveling for the playoffs and we have positive and negatives in each of the match ups, so it will be exciting to see what happens."
Game time in Abbotsford on Friday at the AESC is set for 8 p.m., while game in Langley at the LEC is set for 7 p.m.
FINAL BUZZER: McDonald was called for a technical foul for grabbing the rim after his dunk in the fourth quarter
The Spartans are officially in the post-season mix.
TWU clinched a Canada West playoff spot as the hometown Spartans hung on for a 73-68 win over UBC Okanagan Friday at the LEC.
With Jackson leading the way for TWU by collecting 19 points and eight rebounds, the Spartans improved to 10-9 on the season and qualified for the post-season for the third straight year.
The win, which is the Spartans fifth in a row, puts TWU above the .500 mark for the first time all season.
The loss drops UBCO to 3-17 on the season.
After a dominant third quarter, the Spartans possessed a 19-point edge, 61-42, going into the final frame.
But UBCO didn't go down without a fight. Led by Ghomari, who poured in 12 points, the Heat outscored the Spartans 26-12, over the final 10 minutes to make for a nervous final few minutes for TWU. In the end, however, the Spartans held off the Heat just long enough to earn the five-point win.
Beyond Jackson's effort, the Spartans had three other players hit double digits in points, with Smith, Mark Perrin and Kurtis Osborne collecting 10 points each. Perrrin also had eight rebounds to go with five steals while Smith had seven assists and three steals.
"We played hard for three quarters, but then we let up," Allen said. "That's the sign of an immature team. Our bench didn't show enough desperation and it looked like UBCO was playing for a win and we were playing just to survive. We're going to have to change things in a hurry if we want to do well in the playoffs.
"I think defensively we played well for the first three quarters, but we stopped pressuring in the fourth quarter."
What was a competitive game up until the break turned lopsided in the second half. Trinity Western broke away early and with Jackson and Perrin each collecting six points in the third quarter, the Spartans pushed their lead to 19 points, 61-42, heading into the final frame.